After yesterday’s WWDC keynote, we were left with many questions. As most are now aware, Apple revealed what had been speculated for quite some time – they were going to transition away from Intel chipsets for the Mac and begin producing their own. These new processors are simply known as “Apple silicon.”
A group of us at OWC (a bunch of brilliant people – and me…) typically have an online chat going during Apple events, and yesterday was no different. The musings consist of serious discussion, vagarious anecdotes, and plenty of inside humor. But these chat sessions don’t die once a presentation is over, they often pick back up after a bit of digestion.
Last night, the conversation resumed as OWC Founder and CEO Larry O’Connor wanted to further explore whether or not new Macs armed with ARM chips would support Thunderbolt (3/4). He had some pivotal thoughts, and the discussion that ensued brought perspective from several different angles.
I thought Rocket Yard readers might find the content of the conversation interesting and contemplated summarizing the back-and-forth. But then again, why summarize? After all, you might be interested in seeing how the sausage is made, so why not just post the thread in all its raw glory? Complete with poor grammar, typos, and sometimes hard to follow flow because we step on each other’s thoughts. You know, like when you are formulating a reply, and someone else gets ahead of you, it seems like your comment is floating in mid-air?
It’s an experience we can all relate to, so we decided to pass along the script of what transpired – edited only for formatting, to include a few links, and a clarification or two. Enjoy!
TB or Not TB, That Is the Question.
THE CAST (in order of appearance):
- Larry O’Connor, Founder & CEO
- Mark Chaffee, Content Marketing Manager
- Mike Hoorman, Creative Design and Content Manager (eCommerce)
- Chris Anderson, Product Development Manager
- Grant Dahlke, Brand Evangelist
- Luke Engstrom, Category Manager, Network Storage
We pick up the story roughly 6 hours after the conclusion of Apple’s WWDC 2020 Keynote address. There is a light summer rain coming down, and we see a damp blog editor standing on the deck behind his residence. The grill is open, and he is alone, tending to roughly two dozen bratwurst. Why that many, we aren’t told. He hears a muted “ping” sound and feels a slight vibration in his pocket. It is a Microsoft Teams alert. He grabs his iPhone with his non-grill-tong-wielding hand and takes a look.
[Yesterday 7:47 PM] OWC Larry
So – anyone get info / know if that Mac mini development unit thunderbolt 3 on it?
Or what external ports in general – was thinking…. if thunderbolt 3 also out – the pros will be out in droves
[Yesterday 7:49 PM] OWC Mark C
The Developer Transition Kit consists of a Mac mini enclosure containing an A12Z system-on-chip. It will be supported by 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD for storage. Ports on the unit include a pair of USB-A ports at 5Gbps, and a pair of USB-C ports at 10Gbps. Notably, Thunderbolt 3 is absent.
That’s from Apple Insider.
[Yesterday 7:50 PM] OWC Larry
If production units have TB3 absent – that’s going to frost things over imho
[Yesterday 7:51 PM] OWC Mark C
I wonder how much it is because Intel is out of the picture for the chips.
Maybe they are still negotiating something for TB4.
Or just going to standardize USB-C with all Macs and iOS devices in the future to appease European/world markets.
[Yesterday 7:55 PM] OWC Larry
Two different things there….. Thunderbolt 3 and upcoming 4 and likely forward use C connection….
it’s not an appeasement… it’s an abandonment. Thunderbolt 3/4 ports work with all USB C types (3.1g1 and later)
USB doesn’t work with TB unless has that ‘section’ added.
[Yesterday 7:57 PM] OWC Mark C
Would Apple sacrifice speed for convenience and standardization?
[Yesterday 7:57 PM] OWC Larry
This is bad on multiple multiple levels and means going to have a major exodus to PC / Windows unless there are some really amazing capabilities that somehow Apple singlehandedly pulls off that the entire Intel / AMD / Nvidia / et etc etc universe doesn’t have better options for.
[Yesterday 7:58 PM] OWC Mark C
Maybe it’s just a licensing issue with these developer units.
[Yesterday 7:58 PM] OWC Larry
It’s not standarization. Thunderbolt is a universal C standard.
not licensing… but harder to do Thunderbolt outside a Intel chipset/processor system.
we will see.
[Yesterday 7:58 PM] OWC Mark C
Yep, that’s why it doesn’t seem to make sense.
[Yesterday 8:00 PM] OWC Larry
it doesn’t make a lot of sense… but if they do dump Thunderbolt…. going to piss off a huge portion of their customer base that they will lose forever.
[Yesterday 8:00 PM] OWC Mike H
I don’t think they have the answer yet for external usage. They’re saying this is the box you need for dev only. Unless you dev for thunderbolt.
[Yesterday 8:01 PM] OWC Larry
It is true that Intel is certifying non-Intel platforms form the first time…
I hadn’t seen this.
So…. so…. this might all be moot and we’ll see Thunderbolt on these Apple Processor systems too.
[Yesterday 8:02 PM] OWC Mike H
I don’t think apple would abandon Mac Pro 2019 so fast…
I think it’s just a dev box
[Yesterday 8:02 PM] OWC Mark C
That changes everything.
[Yesterday 8:02 PM] OWC Larry
That would be seen as a total fake out machine then and would accelerate a shift of creatives to Windows..
Apple would be total consumerville.
[Yesterday 8:02 PM] OWC Mark C
That’s kind of what I was referring to when I mentioned “licensing”
[Yesterday 8:03 PM] OWC Larry
never been licensing fees- always certification requirement.
[Yesterday 8:03 PM] OWC Mike H
can’t we just ask during the WWDC sessions?
[Yesterday 8:03 PM] OWC Mark C
[Yesterday 8:04 PM] OWC Larry
Tim [Standing, Vice President of Software Engineering, Mac] on that no doubt.
[Yesterday 8:06 PM] OWC Mark C
Did anyone watch the Platforms State of the Union? I haven’t yet, but wonder if anything might’ve been mentioned.
[Yesterday 8:17 PM] OWC Chris A
[Yesterday 8:17 PM] OWC Larry
Question now is what about production Macs
[Yesterday 8:26 PM] OWC Chris A
arm64 is the developer term, like in recent iPad Pros and iPhones
The following morning we find a now dry blog editor sitting comfortably at his desk, enjoying a large plate of scrambled eggs and bratwurst. He is powering through and attending to the dozens of blog comments that came through during the night. He hears a familiar “ping” – this time from his MacBook Pro – and hits ⌘T twice to toggle over to Microsoft Teams. OWC’s ever-vibrant and energetic Brand Evangelist joins the conversation.
[8:16 AM] OWC Grant
Saw this WWDC take from an “old friend” of ours….I had lost track of Jason and looks like he partnered up with Dan at SixColors.com:
The truth is probably that the future of the Mac is as a “pro” version of iOS and iPadOS. It’ll run more or less every app that’s available on the iPhone and iPad, but it’ll also run traditional Mac software. Over time, the distinction between iPad apps and Mac apps will begin to fade away entirely, and the Mac will just become a keyboard-and-trackpad mode of the iPad.
Like reading about our sun becoming a red giant and swallowing the Earth, or pondering the heat death of the universe, it sounds like a depressing story until you realize the time scales involved. If Apple handles it right, the Mac will fade away so slowly that by the time it’s gone, it won’t matter anymore. But it’s hard not to look at the appearance of unmodified iOS software on the platform and not see the endgame.
[8:17 AM] OWC Larry
Yep – that’s kind of been my view of what I’ve seen so far…..
handled incorrectly – the Mac Pro 2019 going to be seen as a major hoodwink and going to have a mass departure of Pro users… which might not even matter for Apple’s overall revenue model consumer wise.
But – we will see – we will see.
[8:18 AM] OWC Mark C
It makes a lot of sense. In fact, with the last release of the iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard, my first thought was that it was intended to replace the MacBook Air.
[8:20 AM] OWC Grant
As I said to another old Mac industry noteable this AM… two things come to mind. Evolution never ceases. And “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
[8:20 AM] OWC Larry
They aren’t there yet and the complexity and sheer size of AR and especially VR requirements and never mind as those step up in resolution – will keep demand on computing growing. Real question is where Apple is going to be in this mix 5 years from now. Do they care to be there or just the platform for consumption.
The defining moment to me will be whether Apple deploys the first of the new Arm based Macs with or without Thunderbolt on the platform. February was the first time a non-Intel based platform was certified (an AMD) with Thunderbolt – so stands to reason that Apple can do the same now with the ARM based platform as well.
If they do NOT…. and then Pros are going to scream – anyone with Type C TB3 devices going to scream…
[8:25 AM] OWC Mike H
I actually think the pntifcations of everything being an iPad are completely wrong. IT’s the one device they’ve had to pull out of the ash heap to rework again as sales plummeted.
You’ll have Arm chips for the entry level Macs first, while they ramp up cores and create new silicon, and then the pro level Macs will switch to ARM..
and it’ll be so seemless whatever Mac you by will be eitehr intel or ARM and ARM will eventually be fast enough to replace out intel for pro perforomance
right now the arm chips look fast enough to replace the bottom end.
[8:27 AM] OWC Luke
Arm is pretty powerful and since it’s more biased towards higher thread count, less wattage, it scales pretty well. It’s been used in industrial computers and military stuff for years.
[8:28 AM] OWC Mike H
and then, knowing apple… they’ll have 80-core macs… which will entice pro users becasue of performance
[8:29 AM] OWC Luke
The api has to enable scalable compute with so many cores, as long as they scale the software we will have quoted smaller more reliable hardware but with very little user replaceable parts.
[8:29 AM] OWC Grant
on Mike’s vein…never underestimate people…both in an org and those that support it. Jobs upon his return to Apple:
“I had expected that all of the good people would have left. And I found these miraculous people… I tried to ask this as tactfully as I could, “Why are you still here?” And a lot of them had this little phrase, “Because I bleed in six colors.” Which was the old six-color Apple logo. And that was code for, “because I love what this place stands for.”
[8:29 AM] OWC Larry
The pivot to me will be whether there is or is not Thunderbolt on the first ARM Macs.
[8:29 AM] OWC Mike H
I do think Apple rushed the presentation and glossed over a few things and DID NOT assuage the pro users… but the pro users already have amazing machines that Apple will continue to support… they shoiuld’ve devote more than a closing line to that.
[8:29 AM] OWC Larry
If Thunderbolt is there – then users rejoice IMHO – Apple’s not going to give up the Pro crown.
they ditch and abandon that – then it’s a whole new ball game.
[8:30 AM] OWC Mike H
If the first ARM mac is the return of the 12-inch MacBook… do you care about Tb3?
I think they’re still figuring stuff out. hence the glossy presentaiton… short on substance aside from ARM can keep up.
not ARM is faster than.. ARM can keep up
[8:31 AM] OWC Larry
One thing about Thunderbolt – Intel went open source on it and Apple can also do their own silicon for the it as well… So yes – I do care if have to deal with some Macs that work with all Type C and some that only work with USB.
[8:32 AM] OWC Mark C
@Larry O’Connor, how would you feel about writing up a piece for the blog? I was thinking about this last night. Our customers and readers are probably having a lot of the same questions, and would love to know your initial thoughts – non-Apple-bashing, of course. More of “this is what Apple is doing and what I think the future might hold” kind of thing.
[8:33 AM] OWC Mike H
And Ii think you’ll see the rise of more dedicated processor functions, like a CPU just to do lighting and more dedicated processing with the rise of mulit-core… I think it’s exciting but Apple flubbed the presentation with flash in the pan. Jobs handled the Intel Ttransation perfectly reassuring current mac owners they wouldn’t be abandoned… and similarly to that.. the first intel Macs were not faster, they kept up.
[8:34 AM] OWC Larry
Lots of good feedback here and can to toss some thoughts together and perhaps pull some blurbs in from this thread as well.
[8:35 AM] OWC Mark C
I think it’s okay to talk publicly about our concerns as well.
[8:35 AM] OWC Grant
yeah…almost need to aggregate the comments here!
[8:35 AM] OWC Larry
I can sign my name to that.
[8:36 AM] OWC Mark C
That was my other thought – should I post the thread as a “look inside OWC’s head” (smile)
[8:36 AM] OWC Grant
obviously with some editing and review…. (wink)
[8:36 AM] OWC Larry
I am happy to give feedback on such a piece – but that could be a super solid. Different perspectives.
[8:37 AM] OWC Mark C
I always say that people love the human element in all it’s beauty and ugly.
Spelliong errors and all…
[8:48 AM] OWC Larry
After dealing with an overheating MacBook Pro 16″ for the past 6 months+ (finally at Apple now being repaired) – I am pretty excited at the prospect of an Arm Laptop with more capability than an Intel i9 8-Core that uses less power/runs longer and doesn’t also double as a portable heater. The big line, i will say over and over – is what Apple deos with Thunderbolt. This isn’t like when they tried killing FireWire the first time where FireWire was barely used for much beyond storage and some video…. No comparison at all… Macs without Thunderbolt will be a major shot across the bow to a significant user segment that will change course with such a sign of things to come (or really potentially then not coming).
[8:50 AM] OWC Mark C
There’s the executive summary of this thread right there.
The scene closes with the blog editor aggregating content and preparing it for publication. We hope you have enjoyed this production of “OWC Chat Sessions.”
All kidding aside, we would love to hear your thoughts about Apple’s move to their own chipset and how you feel this may impact the direction of the company.
As for me? I need to heat up some bratwurst for lunch.